The Eighteenth Annual Berkeley Undergraduate Prize for Architectural Design Excellence 2016
Berkeley Prize 2016

Nadia Asali Travel Fellowship Report

Berlin, July-August 2016


Design Build With Refugees in Berlin


Within the framework of the Summer University organized by the Technical University of Berlin (TUBS) and CoCoon for Contextual Construction, the journey began.

For four weeks a group of international architectural and structural students coming from Palestine, USA, Australia, Italy, England, China, India, Lebanon and Syria came together to create social spaces with refugees in Berlin. Buch  is Located in north-eastern suburb of Berlin, it represents the northernmost locality of Berlin.

In 2015 after the Syrian crisis, huge number of refugees came to Germany.  Today there are about 80,000 refugees living in Berlin, this started a lot of discussions among the German society:  how can the refugees integrate into a different culture? How can they live in a country when they don't know its language? How long will they be staying? Refugees today in Germany are given accommodation, pocket money and many now are taking German language courses .

Today In Berlin Buch there is a large building hosting about 500 refugees. The building is located within a German neighborhood.


Design Build projects are projects that give students the chance to leave their labs and classrooms and execute architecture how it is done in the real world. It is the opportunity for students to get into the physical world of human interactions and construction, and not just experience architecture in labs and through rendered posters.  It is a platform to exchange information and ideas on an international scale , and gain insight about the execution of a design work.


The task is to revitalize a former sports ground right in the very center of Buch so as to create a space for socializing, eating, playing sports; a space that can create a different kind of dialogue between two different cultures; a space that can allow Germans and refugees to get together, talk and get to know one another. The work was done along with the help of local administration, organizations of civil society, planners and refugees.

The work process took 4 weeks to finish.  Each week was planned to accomplish part of the project.  



We started the week by having a Syrian breakfast all together at the "Kitchen hub."  It was the previous project done by the design build course last year. The project mainly was to create dynamic furniture that can be adjusted to become one whole dining table, or several working tables and the height and width can be easily adjusted. The day gave us a chance to get to know one another and socialize and get acquainted. Then we went to the site and spent the day doing measurements of height and width of the surrounding fences, the location of existing trees and other necessary measurements.

 Having the Syrian Breakfast. 


Site Measurements


The rest of the week we spent working on sketches and ideas on how to create a master plan, and what activities and sport fields to introduce to the site. The major idea was on how to integrate a seating area, a basketball field, a beach volleyball field, a small soccer field and a dining area into the space.  We also had to work on how to emphasize the entrance to become visible for pedestrians. Then we did a jury during which each group presented their sketches and ideas and the instructors commented on the ideas presented and which ideas explore further.

Pin up for the group sketches


Working sessions 


Presenting Our Ideas and Sketches



The 2nd week we had to prepare a poster to present all the ideas for Buch Community.  We worked on creating several sheets; a conceptual sheet, a master plan, a timeline on how the work should be organized and constructed and sketches and 3d modeling of our ideas and a model of the site.

The four groups presented the work in English and German for the members who came from the community.  They were very pleased with what has been presented and they found the ideas interesting and creative.

After the four presentations, the members of the community created a small meeting with the German speaking students to discuss which ideas they want to be executed in the park and which master plan to be accepted from all the presentations.

Posters of the four groups


Buch Community coming to listen to our ideas


The model of our group , and the discussion on how to implement the ideas presented



After choosing the ideas to be executed and the master plan ,we spent the final two weeks  working on finishing the design and executing them. The students were divided into smaller groups each working on one element we want to add to the park.

In two weeks time we had to finish :

-The Master plan

- News Board

- Entrance

- A Sharing Table

- Seating Chairs

- Seating Platform


The Master plan

The Master Plan was divided into long and short term.  We worked on part of the short term.  The rest is supposed to be finished later as soon as they get the funding .

Sketches of the Master Plan


 Finalizing the Master Plan


News Board

The Board was created to post any upcoming events that will occur in the park.

The News Board Placed at the Entrance



We worked on creating large wooden columns that display the name of the park.

The Entrance


Sharing Table

The table was designed to create a place for eating and socializing, it is made of wood and was fully designed and executed by the students of the course.

Detailed plans for the construction of the table 


The table executed and ready to be used!


Seating Platform

There are several seating suggestions were made, and one was designed and executed.

Seating Area


The Opening of "PANKE PLATZ"

Our park is named "PANKE PLATZ" in German, which means the place of Panke; the name of the river in Buch. Many locals and refugees showed up and the opening event was a great success. Many used the sharing table for eating, used the seating area, and many kids played in the football field .

invitation for the opening


Finally, I must say it was an incredible experience, meeting a lot of talented energetic architects from all over the globe, having the chance to explore Berlin and working in the labs of the Technical University of Berlin was truly a dream come true!

It feels amazing to have the chance to design and execute an architectural work  and get the chance to be part of the whole process from the beginning till the very end.  I am proud of what we came up with in just 4 weeks.

I would like to thank the BERKELEY PRIZE for giving me the chance to be part of such a fascinating experience, to be able to design and create and leave a positive footprint through the use of architecture in Berlin. I hope in the future I will be able to work on such projects for refugee camps in Palestine. Such projects can generate hope for positive change and enhance the drastic conditions of Palestinian refugee camps. Working on this project made me believe more in architecture and its power to create positive change, I hope this experience marks the beginning of many more other achievements for me in the path of social change through the use of architecture.

For more info about the project:


 A group photo after a long day at the site!



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